Friday, 13 Dec 2019

The best places to visit in Eastern Europe for culture, cool vibes and cheap prices!

For adventurous souls from all over the world, backpacking Europe is the stuff dreams are made of. But we all know you need big bucks in your budget to travel around this pricey continent, right? Well, wrong actually. It’s no secret that the likes of London, Paris and Rome will make a big dent in your travel fund, but head east to some less explored European gems and you’ll find the prices are more like Vietnam than Vienna. Here are the best places to visit in Eastern Europe that’ll save you money and score you maximum coolness points!

  1. Belgrade – Serbia

Think you know how to party? Belgrade’s locals will give you a run for your money. Every night’s a big one in the Serbian capital that’s famous for its ‘splavs’, floating clubs along the rivers that each have their own theme. Whether you spend the night in an 80’s rock or EDM splav, don’t expect to leave before the sun’s up! When you’re not dancing on the Danube, you can spend time sipping coffee in the bohemian Skadarlija district, admiring mind-boggling architecture like the mighty Saint Sava church, or sunning on the shores of Ada Ciganlija, an island in the middle of the Sava river that’s complete with beach bars and water sports.

best places to visit in eastern europe, the church of saint sava in belgrade, serbia

? @hopewarrenx

  • Best time to visit? Summer is when the splavs are roaring and the water around Ada Ciganlija is warm enough for a dip
  • How long to spend? 3-4 days
  • Dorm beds starting from: £5 a night
Check out all of our hostels in Belgrade
  1. Mostar – Bosnia and Hercegovina

You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you explore the Ottoman architecture and market stalls of Mostar’s Old Town. But the city’s crowning jewel is Stari Most, the iconic bridge that towers over the sparkling blue waters of the Neretva river. Jumping from the bridge into the water 20 metres below is a Bosnian tradition – you can give it a go yourself if you’re willing to shell out around £20 to a local for ‘training’ (we’re not quite sure what this involves!) You’ll want to get the best views of this postcard-worthy scene, so visit the riverside Koski Mehmed Paša Mosque and climb to the top of its minaret for an unbelievable vantage point.

best places to visit in eastern europe, man jumping off Stari Most bridge in Mostar

? @darceybeau

  • Best time to visit? Visit in August and take to the streets with the locals to celebrate and watch the annual Stari Most diving competition!
  • How long to spend? 3 days
  • Dorm beds starting from: £6 a night
Check out all of our hostels in Mostar
  1. Lake Bled – Slovenia

This may not be a hidden gem, but that doesn’t mean it’s not one of the best places to visit in Eastern Europe! There’s a reason this place is a certified backpacker hotspot. Could it be the unbelievable natural beauty, turquoise waters and epic hiking trails? Maybe the quaint town centre’s lively pubs, or the fairytale castle in the middle of the lake? Or what about the local speciality Bled cream cake that you can only find here? We reckon it’s all of the above! P.S, it’s not an Instagram filter – the lake really is that colour!

best places to visit in eastern europe, lake bled in slovenia

? @wdtrends

  • Best time to visit? If you don’t mind the chill and want a peaceful visit (with no photobombers), spring or autumn are the best choices. If you’re fine with the crowds and want to try out some water sports, it has to be summer.
  • How long to spend? 2 days
  • Dorm beds starting from: £8 a night
Check out all of our hostels in Bled
  1. Krakow – Poland

Start your Krakow adventure at the massive medieval square in the Old Town. Be wowed by the architecture, grab a Polish sausage from a street vendor and watch horses galloping across the plaza. Spend an evening bar hopping in Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter that’s known for its eclectic drinking dens – you’ll find everything from underground music venues to cosy absinthe bars. Tip: don’t try to keep up with the locals on vodka consumption (when drinks cost £1 it can be tempting)! When in Krakow, a visit to Auschwitz concentration camp is a heart-wrenching but important experience for anyone interested in European history.

Discover more things to do in Krakow here.

best places to visit in eastern europe, horse and cart in krakow. poland

? @luucasfotos

  • Best time to visit? November-December – the Old Town looks especially beautiful with its Christmas lights and a layer of snow!
  • How long to spend? 3 days
  • Dorm beds starting from: £5 a night
Check out all of our hostels in Krakow
  1. Moscow – Russia

Moscow is home to one of the most famous, photographed and downright beautiful spots in the world – the magical St. Basil’s Cathedral. But apart from being stunned by this colourful icon, there are plenty more things to take your breath away in Moscow. Russian ballet at the grand Bolshoi theatre, extravagant nightlife, the enchanting Red Square and a fascinating history to uncover in some world-class museums. Throw in hidden hipster gems like flea markets and pop-up gigs, and Moscow pretty much has it all. Sure, it might be a little pricier than the rest of the places on this list, but visiting Moscow is a real bucket list experience that’s worth every penny.

best places to visit in eastern europe, st. basil’s cathedral in moscow, russia

? @nikolayv

  • Best time to visit? Prices soar in summer and winter can get brutal, so April and May are ideal.
  • How long to spend? 4-5 days – there’s a lot to see!
  • Dorm beds starting from: £6 a night
Check out all of our hostels in Moscow
  1. Budapest – Hungary

If we could create the dream destination for backpackers, it would look a lot like Budapest. Heaps of history, buzzing nightlife, amazing food and even better hostels, all while remaining seriously affordable. Can you blame us for loving this city so much? The perfect day in Budapest would involve a morning soak in the Roman thermal baths, a funicular ride up to Buda Castle, gazing from the lookout towers of Fisherman’s Bastion and a feast of goulash and chicken paprikash. It goes without saying that you have to end your night in one of the city’s ruin bars, abandoned buildings that have been transformed into creative drinking spaces. Szimpla Kert is the OG and most famous – a mismatched wonderland that you could (and should) get lost in for hours!

best places to visit in eastern europe, girl sitting by the hungarian parliament in budapest

? @traveltoblank

  • Best time to visit? All year – a bad time to visit Budapest doesn’t exist!
  • How long to spend? 3-4 days
  • Dorm beds starting from: £4 a night
Check out all of our hostels in Budapest
  1. Tbilisi – Georgia

A newbie to the backpacking game, the former Soviet nation of Georgia is full of cultural gems, nowhere more so than in capital city Tbilisi. Take it slow while you explore the narrow, cobbled streets, stopping in the many cosy coffee shops that you’ll find on every corner. To soak up a bit of Georgian culture, you could watch the ballet at the Tbilisi Opera House, sample some locally produced wine, cheer like mad at a football match or just wander around taking in all the incredible street art the city has to offer. Don’t leave without trying khachapuri, a gooey, cheesy bread with an egg cooked on top.

Discover more things to do in Tbilisi here.

best places to visit in eastern europe, cafe leila in tbilisi, georgia

? @mibillante

  • Best time to visit? There’s no bad time to visit Tbilisi, but spring or autumn are best if you want to avoid the snowy winter and scorching summer.
  • How long to spend? 3 days
  • Dorm beds starting from: £3 a night
Check out all of our hostels in Tbilisi
  1. Kiev – Ukraine

From the spires of its charming cathedrals to its lush parks and botanical gardens, Kiev is green everywhere you look. This beautifully colourful city is becoming more and more popular with backpackers. It’s got cool craft-beer loving neighbourhoods like Podil, quirky features like the world’s deepest underground station (that’s filled with awesome artwork), an always buzzing nightlife scene and budget-friendly prices. It’s also a hotspot for dark tourists, who base themselves here to visit the abandoned city of Chernobyl that was devastated by a nuclear disaster in 1986. Would you take a tour?

Discover more things to do in Kiev here.

best places to visit in eastern europe, st andrew's church in kiev, ukraine

? @pablo4travelers

  • Best time to visit? Winter is Ukraine is freezing, and only for the brave. Visit in summer for packed out beer gardens, weird and wonderful flea markets and riverside chilling.
  • How long to spend? 3-4 days
  • Dorm beds starting from: £4 a night
Check out all of our hostels in Kiev
  1. Transylvania – Romania

The Romanian region of Transylvania is one of the best places to visit in Eastern Europe for lovers of incredible landscapes, fairytale castles and of course, classic literature. Bram Stoker’s Dracula was based on bloodthirsty ruler Vlad the Impaler, and you can spook yourself by visiting his castle in Bran. The region is home to picturesque cities that are steeped in history, like quaint Sighisoara and the vibrant university city of Cluj-Napoca. Venture out into the mountains for some of Europe’s best wildlife spotting – 5,000 brown bears and a number of wolves call this area home!

best places to visit in eastern europe, bran castle in bran, romania

? @nomadicjulien

  • Best time to visit? Spring is best if you want to enjoy Transylvania’s natural surroundings to the fullest.
  • How long to spend? 1 week
  • Dorm beds starting from: £7 a night
Check out all of our hostels in Romania
  1. Tallinn – Estonia

Despite its modern foodie scene and wild nightlife, Tallinn is a city full of old-fashioned charm. Its UNESCO listed Old Town is a perfectly preserved maze of ridiculously photogenic cobbled streets, inside the walled city. Make sure you pay a visit to Europe’s oldest pharmacy, where you can check out the bizarre remedies like snakeskin potion and powdered unicorn horn that they’ve been dosing out since the 1400s. If you’re a beer lover you won’t be disappointed here – not only are there more traditional Estonian pubs than you could ever get round to boozing in, the craft beer scene is rapidly expanding too. With pints costing between £1.50-£2, we think you’ll find it in your budget to sample a few!

best places to visit in eastern europe, tallin covered in snow

? @iliched

  • Best time to visit? Winter – the historic streets look even more surreal under a dusting of snow and the Old Town’s Christmas Market is a winner.
  • How long to spend? 2-3 days
  • Dorm beds starting from: £7 a night
Check out all of our hostels in Tallinn
  1. Baku – Azerbaijan

If you’re the type of traveller who likes to stay ahead of the trend, Baku is one of the best cities to visit in Eastern Europe. It’s a fascinating concoction of old vs. new, with illuminating skyscrapers contrasted against Soviet architecture, swanky bars alongside traditional teahouses and shisha dens, and high-end shops opposite artisanal carpet weavers. The Old City has breathtaking mosques to explore, and the streets are paroled by dozens of friendly cats on the hunt for belly rubs. An evening stroll along the glittering seafront can’t be beaten – well, unless you do it with an Azeri lamb kebab in hand (or halloumi and veggies for the herbivores!)

best places to visit in eastern europe, view of baku city new vs old in azerbaijan

  • Best time to visit? If you can’t hack 40 degree summers (whew!) then spring or autumn are best. Visit in March to experience the country’s New Year celebrations.
  • How long to spend? 3-4 days
  • Dorm beds starting from: £3 a night
Check out all of our hostels in Baku
  1. Krka National Park – Croatia

Do you ever just want to give Mother Nature a massive high five? That’s exactly how you’ll feel when you set eyes on the dazzling blues and greens of Krka National Park. As far as Croatian national parks go, it’s got plenty of competition, but there aren’t many others where you can dive into turquoise waters and swim underneath epic waterfalls. With 17 cascading falls, Skradinski Buk is the biggest and most beautiful. After a dip, you can adventure along the park’s hiking trails, try and spot native wildlife including eagles and otters, or hop on a boat and explore the river. The easiest city to reach Krka from is Split – it takes about an hour and a half by bus and ferry.

best places to visit in eastern europe, waterfall in krka national park

? @agnieszkam

  • Best time to visit? Summer, when the Croatian sun is sizzling, the park’s greenery is in full bloom and you can cool off with a waterfall dip. Dreamy!
  • How long to spend? 1 day – it’s a perfect day trip from Split.
  • Dorm beds starting from: £4 a night (in Split)
Check out all of our hostels in Split

 

We could keep on writing forever about the best places to visit in Eastern Europe – there are just so many gems in this part of the world! These are just twelve of our favourites. Have you been to any on our list? Or do you love a lesser known destination that everybody needs on their radar? Let us know in the comments!

Keep reading: ?

? Party like a local – the best nightlife in Kiev

? A first timer’s guide to backpacking Georgia

? Where to stay in Budapest – a neighbourhood guide

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